King David: The All-Too-Human Hero

In a recent book, David Wolpe argues that David’s was the first fully explored and fleshed-out personality in human literature. Rather than follow the scholarly practice of trying to unravel and compare the different threads of the biblical narrative, Wolpe explores the psychology and meaning of this complex and compelling character. Indeed, writes Robin Russin, much of the power of the David narrative comes from its hero’s failings:

[O]ne of the arguments for the historical reality of David’s story is that he is portrayed as such a flawed, if charismatic, person. David soothes Saul’s troubled soul with his music at the same time that he has been chosen by Samuel to usurp Saul’s throne—because, essentially, David will be ruthless enough to utterly exterminate his opponents, where Saul was not. Indeed, as Wolpe notes (though disputes), many see “the stench of conspiracy” in David’s convenient absence from the battlefield where Saul and his son Jonathan are killed. The same David who earns—or simply inspires—the love and loyalty of his men steals the wife of one of his most faithful warriors and then, in order to cover his own guilt, sends the man off to die in the forefront of battle. The same David who is anointed to be the next king of all Israel later joins forces with Israel’s bitterest enemy when the need suits him. As Wolpe writes, “An unmixed motive does not seem to exist in David’s world, or in his heart.” The lesson seems to be that none of us is perfect—as God reminds David through the vehicle of the prophet Nathan, who “punctures in parable . . . not only David’s dormant conscience but his self-deceptions and rationalizations.” Even this most blessed of heroes, the chosen of God, is human, and afflicted—perhaps even more so—by the same moral faults and failures as the rest of us.

Read more at LA Review of Books

More about: Bible, King David, Samuel

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security